2 named to Chester Planning Board, shoring up of Rt. 35 starts

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2017  Telegraph Publishing LLC

Leaving one of the three vacant positions still open, the Chester Select Board appointed two candidates to the Chester Planning Commission at its meeting on Wednesday, June 7.

Barre Pinske at a 2014 Planning Commission meeting demonstrating how small an allowable home business sign would be under new regulations. Telegraph file photo.

The board, which interviewed five candidates in executive sessions this spring, put Chester residents Tim Roper and Barre Pinske on the panel that drafts the Town Plan and zoning, subdivision and flood hazard regulations. They will join Claudio Veliz of Chester and Naomi Johnson of Springfield when Planning Commission meetings resume.

Board chair Arne Jonynas praised the process, saying that the Select Board had reached consensus on two of the choices and that the format had produced “an open and honest dialog.”

Jonynas said that of the original six candidates, one had dropped out before the interview process began, one had availability issues serving in the winter and a third was already serving on the Development Review Board, making him ineligible under rules that the board recently put in place.

Before calling for votes, Jonynas said that he thought that Roper would “bring people together” and that Pinske was  “quite outspoken” but that he has “mellowed and matured.”

The commission had been unable to reach a quorum since early March when Tom Hildreth quit the board abruptly during a hearing to choose a zoning administrator candidate to present to the Select Board. Another member, Randall Wiggin, had asked not to be re-appointed and Tom Bock left the commission after his election to the state legislature. Bock remains Chester’s representative to the Southern Windsor County Planning Commission and chairs that board.

According to Jonynas, the Select Board will work on filling the vacancy on the DRB and go back to the Planning Commission later. The DRB has been operating with four members and using its alternates to fill in since the death of Don Robinson in August 2015. During a meeting earlier this year, DRB chair Carla Westine told the board it did not have to rush to fill the vacancy as that board was working fine.

Board member Heather Chase suggested advertising for the DRB position and for spots on the budget committee, which currently has one member – Frank Bidwell – who,  according to the town’s attorney, cannot be a committee of one.

“It would be great if we got people on the budget committee,” said Chase.

Roper and Pinske are slated to serve on the commission until March of 2020. The position that continues to be vacant expires in March 2018.

Route 35 stabilization begins

Public Works Director Graham Kennedy told the board that his department has several large projects going on including a large culvert installation on Potash Brook Road, the stabilization of 300 feet of the worst part of Route 35, sidewalks and the beginning of lining ditches with stone as required by Act 64, which is supposed to reduce silt and nutrients in the state’s waters.

Public Works Director Graham Kennedy gives the board a rundown of projects going on this summer. Photo by Shawn Cunningham.

Kennedy said that Route 35 is beyond the town’s financial capability to repair because it was built in the worst possible place. Kennedy said the substrate is glacial till and clay, which forms a “pond” between the road surface and the sub-base. Drains would help, he said, but tearing up the road, installing the drains, rebuilding and paving has been quoted at $1 million per mile.

“The road is terrible and always will be; there’s no easy fix,” said Kennedy. He added that the town could set up a program to bond for doing the road half a mile at a time. “All it needs is a lot of money,” said Kennedy.

Noting that with 78, Chester has the highest number of bridges of any town in the state, Kennedy said 2 x 6 pressure treated planks used on three recent bridge rebuilds are failing and that the town is pursuing the manufacturer for replacement, but that would not cover the fix.

Town considers credit card payments

Town Manager David Pisha floated the idea of accepting credit cards for taxes, water and sewer bills and other fees charged by the town. A salesman for a company that does this for municipalities visited Pisha to explaine how it would work. A resident could pay a town bill through the company using a credit card. Rather than the town paying the processing fee, the resident would be charged a “convenience fee” of $10 or 3 percent of the transaction – whichever is higher.

While the board was generally in favor, Chase asked Pisha to make certain that the company is PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant so credit information is secure and to check with more companies for lower fees. Chase noted that the town should try to get the best deal for its residents and taxpayers.

Antique fire truck and other business

Member Ben Whalen said that the town’s 1931 American LaFrance fire engine that has been stored for years in the Yosemite Fire House has been put back in running order. Whalen thanked Kelly Arrison of Heads Up Motor Sports for donating his time and the use of his shop in bringing the truck back.

Chester’s 1931 American LaFrance fire engine driven by Andy Sheere, right, and Red McAllister in this year’s Alumni Parade. Photo by Claudio Veliz

Whalen said that members of the department spent two weekends with Arrison and now the truck runs, the transmission shifts, the brakes and even the siren work. “We fixed everything we could find,” said Arrison noting that it’s ready for parade duty but it’s still an old truck and will need maintenance. The fire department used the old engine at the Alumni Day parade on June 10.

The only sour note occurred after a brief published in The Vermont Journal pointing to the fact that while it was at Arrison’s shop it was stored outdoors.

Arrison, whose business includes caring for historic vehicles said the truck “was taken care of at the highest level.”

“It’s a fire truck; they get wet,” said Whalen.

Jonynas noted that since the town switched from the Journal to The Message that paper the Journal has not been covering Chester Select Board meetings. “But they took the time to report this,” said Jonynas. “I get upset.”

“I never got a call, the chief never got a call,” said Whalen.

“It’s too bad if it’s gone to a mean-spirited place,” said Chase

Since two members will be out of town on June 21, the board decided to hold a special meeting on June 14 and include a required public hearing for a $1.2 million bike/pedestrian grant that executive assistant Julie Hance is applying for.


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  1. Tim Roper says:

    I think it’s really great to see our antique fire truck running and back on the parade routes again. Thank you Kelly Arrison, for providing your work time, shop space and expert guidance in helping to make that happen.